In the autobiography privately circulated two years ago and published finally in January 1978 just after his death, William L. Langer tells of his last year as a graduate student at Harvard in 1921-22. With typical industry he was both teaching an important course and writing a long Ph.D. dissertation, all within a single academic year. He relates that his situation was complicated by my relations with Professor Coolidge, who liked to have me drop into his elegant office in Widener about every day to discuss new books. . . . He was at that time deeply involved [with the founding of the] Council on Foreign Relations, [which] proposed to publish a quarterly. . . . Coolidge had been named as the editor. . . . He often discussed his editorial ideas and problems with me. . . .1
From that earliest time onward, Professor Langer was closely associated with the Editors of Foreign Affairs - as student and protégé of Archibald Cary Coolidge, as contemporary and close colleague of Hamilton Fish Armstrong, and finally as seminar teacher and longtime mentor to the present Editor. Both the magazine and the Council have felt his imprint deeply and for good.
In the case of Foreign Affairs, his formal tasks began with the single-handed writing of the Recent Books section from 1925 to 1936. Although his notes were almost always shorter than those of our reviewers today, the considered appraisal of some 150 books a quarter (shipped back and forth to Cambridge) may strike some as more than the side effort it represented for Langer. Although the section had started with the magazine, it is fair to say that Langer made it effective and widely read. In addition, he edited with Mr. Armstrong the pioneer ten-year Bibliography, enlarging and reappraising reviews of the worldwide literature that appeared between 1919 and 1932. In this, as in his scholarly work, his reading command of a dozen or more languages made his breadth of coverage alone almost unique.
In our July 1973 issue, Professor Langer has written movingly of his 50-year friendship with
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